What are Backlinks, and Why Are They Important for SaaS Products?
A backlink is a hyperlink on one website that directs users to another website, and the process of actively increasing the number of backlinks that refer to your website is called link building. ‘Actively’ because recommended practices such as creating high-quality content work for attracting backlinks, but they may not be considered link building activities.
Link building is meant to create a solid and respectable backlink profile for your website. It would indicate to search engines like Google that the website is trustworthy and should be considered for higher positions in the search results pages.
Still, both the nature of backlinks and the process of link building have a lot of nuance to them – so let’s dive into the details in the following sections.
What are the types of backlinks?
There are different categories of backlinks, but in this link building context, we will divide links into two major types: “do-follow” links and “no-follow” links.
Followed (or “DoFollow”) Links
A followed or dofollow backlink passes SEO value to the linked-to website and allows search engines to consider it when ranking this website.
Do-Follow links are the more sought-after link type because they are seen to have a direct and positive impact on a website’s search engine ranking. These links pass PageRank (AKA link juice), which contributes to the overall domain authority, helping your site rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). However, to be most effective, they should be acquired from authoritative and relevant websites.
The most recommended way to obtain Do-Follow links is to focus on creating high-quality content. Such pieces of content tend to naturally attract links from other websites.
No-Follow links contain the nofollow HTML attribute, which instructs search engines not to pass any link authority or “link juice” to the linked page. Because of that fact, it’s widely believed that No-Follow links do not directly improve your website’s authority and search engines ignore them when calculating the ranking.
However, we do recommend that your link-building strategy needs to include a mix of Do-Follow and No-Follow links, and this is why:
- According to Semrush, No-Follow links are still valuable as Google still recognizes them, which does appear to contribute slightly to your website’s profile;
- Having a diversified backlink can make your site look more authentic and less like it’s trying to manipulate search engine rankings;
- No-Follow links are still very effective for bringing in referral traffic;
- No-Follow links are used widely for social media sharing, user-generated content platforms (e.g., forums, comments), and sponsored content.
The importance of link building for SaaS products
There are six major identifiable factors that dictate the importance of link building for SaaS:
- Improved search engine rankings;
- Enhanced Trust and Credibility;
- Increased Referral Traffic and Conversions;
- Content Promotion Benefits;
- Partnerships and Collaborations;
- Competitive Edge.
Let’s talk about them in greater detail.
Improved Search Engine Rankings
An effective SaaS link building strategy enhances your website’s authority and search engine ranking, ensuring that your SaaS solution is discoverable when potential customers search for relevant keywords.
Search engines use backlinks as a signal of a website’s authority and relevance. Hence, links from reputable sources can boost your SaaS website’s search engine rankings. Better rankings mean increased visibility in search results, which can lead to more organic traffic.
Enhanced Trust and Credibility
Trust is a vital currency in SEO, especially when it comes to B2B SaaS companies. When other respected websites in your industry link to your SaaS site, it’s a powerful endorsement.
Users are also more likely to trust and respect a brand that has the approval of industry leaders or well-known publications. Accumulating authoritative backlinks can help establish your SaaS brand as a reliable source of information or services.
Increased Referral Traffic and Conversions
Beyond their SEO benefits, backlinks also serve as pathways for referral traffic to your website. Links from relevant industry blogs, forums, or review websites can lead potential customers directly to your SaaS website or landing page.
This traffic can be highly valuable, as it is made of users who are already interested in your niche or topic. If your product aligns with their needs, this can translate into conversions, whether that means signing up for a trial or making a purchase.
Content Promotion Benefits
Content marketing is a core strategy for many SaaS companies. It involves creating and sharing pieces of content online that do not explicitly promote your SaaS product but inform potential users about its benefits, uses, etc.
When you share content such as blogs, infographics, case studies, or whitepapers with a link back to your website, it not only improves your content’s reach but also establishes your SaaS brand as an industry thought leader.
Content promotion with backlink building can be a game-changer for attracting and retaining customers, as each link spotlights your brand and helps increase visibility. When users encounter your brand repeatedly on the internet, it becomes more recognizable and memorable.
Therefore, link building allows your SaaS website to reap the benefits of content marketing, such as increased brand awareness, which is a precursor to trust and customer loyalty.
Partnerships and Collaborations
A huge part of link building is reaching out to notable online resources, websites, as well as SaaS companies in many cases. This process means that you get to expose these publications to your brand. It may result in short and even unexpectedly long-term partnerships and collaborations.
Working together on joint projects, co-marketing efforts, or integrations can expand your product’s reach and introduce it to new markets and audiences.
Lastly, in the crowded SaaS landscape, competition is fierce, and effective link building can be a differentiator that sets your SaaS product apart from the alternatives. Securing a greater number of backlinks from notable sources can boost your online visibility, making it more likely for your SaaS website to appear above competitors in search results. This competitive edge can lead to increased market share and overall business growth.
So it is paramount to monitor your competitors’ efforts and adjust your link building tactics accordingly.
20 SaaS Link Building strategies
Our expert team has had great success in link building for SaaS, using countless methods that depend on the case – and for brevity’s sake, we’d like to limit this section to the twenty most effective ones from our experience.
We’ve broken them down into five sections as well:
- Traditional Link Building Strategies
- Content-Driven Link Building
- Networking and Outreach
- Unique Link Building Techniques
- Technical Link Building Strategies
Let’s look into each of those individually.
Traditional Link Building Strategies
Guest posting involves writing articles that showcase your expertise and provide valuable information to be posted on other websites. In return, you typically receive a link back to your SaaS platform – and to make most out of it, the website should ideally be high-traffic and high-authority.
Also, make sure to choose websites and blogs relevant to your SaaS niche – analyze their audience and previous guest posts to ensure they align with goals. And, of course, crafting high-quality, informative, and unique content that includes relevant data, insights, and practical advice can make your SaaS guest post more appealing.
The reviews of your SaaS product that are written on external websites by experts, industry influencers or regular users can also support your backlink profile – if they contain a link to your website. The review evaluates the product’s performance, features, and benefits; and if it turns out positive, this will not only enhance your credibility for your potential customers but also for search engines as well.
It’s important that these reviews are honest and unbiased – the review should cover both the product’s strengths and potential limitations.
Niche directories are online catalog-like websites that are specific to your industry. They very often serve as a go-to resource for users looking for solutions within a particular niche, so getting your SaaS business listed in them makes your platform way more discoverable.
Local business directories
Local business directories can be compared to online phone books for companies in your area. Even though this activity is usually associated with businesses such as cafes or retailers, you should still set up a company profile on services like Google My Business and Yelp.
With this move, you can not only improve your local search visibility and visibility overall but also encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on these directories to enhance your SEO even more.
Content-Driven Link Building
Offer free tools on the website
Within your SaaS library, develop a free tool that will address certain specific needs of your target audience, and provide a link to it on the website. If users find value in this tool, they will be more likely to share it with others, increasing your website’s visibility and attracting backlinks.
You should also actively promote these tools within your content and through outreach. Make an offer of a free demo with no registration requirements to encourage sharing.
Product embedding is often a win-win – you allow others to use parts of your SaaS software on their websites, making their websites more functional. In return, they link back to your platform, which can expand your reach and authority.
Create and share insightful visual stories that make complex information easy to understand, you can use classic social media platforms like LinkedIn, and Facebook or even image-focused ones like Pinterest. These infographics also tend to be an effective tool for attracting SaaS backlinks, since, if well-made, they are highly shareable.
Trend reports publishing
By conducting research and sharing unique data in your industry trend reports, you can position yourself as an authority in your field of expertise. This way, other websites and blogs seeking authoritative information may link back to your trend reports, boosting your website.
Resource pages publishing
Resource pages serve as comprehensive hubs of knowledge – by creating resource pages that curate the best content, tools, and resources in your niche, you become a go-to reference for a big community of users. Not to mention, other websites may link to your resource pages for their audiences’ benefit as well.
Networking and Outreach
Sponsor or speak at conferences
Sponsoring or speaking at conferences allows you to connect with a broader audience – you gain exposure in front of industry professionals and potential customers. Not only that – but some conferences have websites where you’ll need to set up a profile to participate, which can give you a high-quality backlink.
Hosting your podcast or appearing as a guest on other podcasts is another way to reach people – through audio content. On top of being good for showing your expertise and experience, when you participate in podcast episodes, show notes are often created, including links to your website.
Creating badges, awards, or certifications related to your industry can be a creative way to build backlinks, albeit challenging – you’ll need to have earned a great amount of authority by then. If you can make it happen, when you offer these badges to other websites, they will proudly display them, linking back to your platform as the source of recognition.
Beyond marketing, integrating your software with complementary solutions can create a superior user experience, enhancing the capabilities of the product(s) users own. But, of course, collaboration with other software providers also often results in co-marketing efforts, content creation, and SaaS backlinks from partner websites.
Similarly to podcasts, offering interviews to industry influencers or bloggers is another opportunity to showcase your expertise and insights. Interviews also often include links to your website, allowing readers or listeners to explore further.
Unique Link Building Techniques
Linked and unlinked brand mentions
Keeping an eye on where your brand is mentioned on the internet, whether with a link or without one, allows you to manage your online presence. If you find a mention that is unlinked to your website, reach out to the source and request a link, ensuring proper credit.
Help a reporter out (HARO)
HARO is a technique that connects industry experts with reporters who need insights for their niche articles. By providing valuable responses to reporter queries, you not only position yourself as a knowledgeable source but also get a chance to get a backlink and a mention of your website once the article is published.
Testimonial link building
Testimonial link building involves offering honest and valuable feedback about products or services you appreciate. In return, you can request that your testimonial include a backlink to your website so that the feedback source is verified and you get a backlink.
AI tools can analyze your backlink profile, helping you make data-driven decisions about your link-building strategy. They provide a number of insights to identify opportunities and areas for improvement in your backlink profile; moreover, they can point you to high-quality, industry-relevant websites to prioritize for your link-building activities.
At the same time, try to avoid using AI backlinks builders to automate the process as you may be punished by Google for link spamming.
Technical Link Building Strategies
Broken links recovery
It is a clever strategy that involves identifying broken links on relevant websites and notifying their owners about this fact. When doing this, you can suggest replacing these broken links with links to your high-quality content, if it matches the context of the original link, which creates a win-win situation for both parties.
Image credits ensure proper attribution when others use your images. It’s a way of giving credit to the creators, and it often includes links to your website – and remember that high-quality images and visuals are more likely to receive proper attribution.
4 SaaS Link Building Activities to Avoid
It must also be mentioned that there exist controversial and even harmful SaaS link building practices. Google has a comprehensive list of activities and instances that are considered spammy and that are actively penalized by the system – for instance, using an automated AI backlink builder.
In this section, however, we’d like to elaborate on just four of the most common questionable methods:
- Buying backlinks;
- Link exchanging;
- Parasite SEO;
- Low authority sites.
Buying SaaS backlinks is a tempting but high-risk and overall unhealthy strategy – it involves paying another website to insert a link to yours on one of their pages. The overall consensus is that, if done very carefully and with high-quality websites, it may bring results, but the cons far outweigh the pros and most cases. It tends to cost a lot of money, still costs some effort which may better be spent on organic link-building, and can result in severe penalties from Google.
Quality always trumps quantity in SaaS link building – focus on acquiring backlinks from websites that are relevant to your industry and content, invest in creating high-quality content that naturally attracts links, and collaborate on projects, guest posts, or expert roundups.
The link-exchanging process is straightforward – two websites agree to provide backlinks to each other. According to Google, the overuse of link exchanges is considered spammy, so reciprocal links can also harm your SEO efforts if overdone. That said, it still remains a common practice – according to linkbuilder.io, a staggering 74% of websites have reciprocal links, and it appears that the practice is mostly safe barring some extreme scenarios.
Still, if you do engage in link exchanges, seek out partnerships with reputable, authoritative websites that have a strong online presence. And be cautious of using exact-match anchor text for link exchanges – you need to diversify anchor text to create a more natural and less suspicious backlink profile.
Parasite SEO is another divisive, yet widespread practice of posting content on high-authority external platforms to “parasite” off of their domain strength to rank higher in Google search results. Unlike guest posting, the primary goal is not necessarily to add value to the host site but to capitalize on the host site’s authority.
Your primary focus should be on optimizing your own website by creating valuable, original content and optimizing your site’s structure, speed, and user experience. And, of course, do use third-party platforms for your content, as long as it’s well-placed and relevant there.
Low Authority Sites
Backlinks from low-authority sites can hinder your SEO progress, as Google doesn’t give much-ranking weight to those pages. To steer clear of these issues, focus on earning links from reputable, high-authority websites in your niche. The way you can determine which website is a worthy investment is by looking at its domain rating (DR) – optimally, it should be at least higher than 50.
And remember to seek backlinks from websites that are contextually and thematically relevant to your content and industry.
How to find and eliminate bad/toxic backlinks
Periodically audit your backlink profile using tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs, or SEMrush and identify low-quality or spammy links that need attention.
For links you can manually remove, reach out to the owners/admins of linking sites. Politely request the removal of these links and communicate the reasons for doing so.
If you can’t manually remove harmful links, use Google’s Disavow Tool to inform Google that you want to disavow these links. This will ensure they are not considered in your SEO evaluation.